Gestures of Power – Politics and Body Language
Trump, Putin and Merkel - their body language and gestures reveal a lot about their relationship to power. A team of experts in body language and media impact analyzes what signals politicians wish to send through their behavior. What tricks do the powerful employ? What is just stagecraft, and when do facial expressions and gestures reveal what they really think? Stretching your arms up, clenching your fist or poking at your audience with your forefinger: politicians love grand gestures - and for a good reason. We remember how people look or behave more than we remember what they say. That’s largely due to how our brain works. It stores visual information more easily than verbal information. As a result, body language is a crucial tool for politicians. Donald Trump is a prime example. Media analyses of the US President’s body language are rarely flattering. But Trump is consummate showman. In one of his favorite gestures, he shapes a circle with his thumb and forefinger and then moves his hand up and down. Stefan Verra is one of Europe's most sought-after body language experts. For him, Trump's gestures are one of the reasons for the US president's success. As Verra explains: "People voted for someone they saw as a top dog, an alpha animal, not a political party. Trump wants to signal, ‘I'm confident and strong, I can protect you'." Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin is reinventing himself as a down-to-earth strategist. For Putin, that means showing off his shirtless body in manly poses. His message is that he’s a real man who has power firmly in his grip. In the West, Putin may come across as cold and emotionless, but in Russia he reads as authoritative and masterful. But political body language is not always easy to control. For example, German Chancellor Angela Merkel does not always master a poker face. Body language experts who analyze her subtle gestures and expressions during press conferences can tell when the chancellor is suppressing anger or annoyance. As the example of Merkel makes clear: you can train your body language, but you can’t always fully hide what you think.